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Burnout is not a badge of honour: How to spot the five stages of burnout

In a traditional work environment, there is a clear distinction between work and your personal life, enabling people to separate the two and relax in their home environment. However, with more people now working from home than ever before, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to switch off from work when they have finished for the day. This difficulty means more people are experiencing burnout while working from home. 

In a study by Capterra, 54% of respondents said that stress increased when working from home due to there being no separation between work and personal life.

This article from business support platform Rovva will define the five stages of burnout and what you can do to avoid it.

What is burnout?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Burnout can be caused by anything that makes a person feel exhausted or overwhelmed. 

The term ‘burnout’ was first coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, who defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause of relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Burnout can affect anyone at any stage of their career. A 2020 Micro Biz Mag study found that of 1,000 adults surveyed in the UK, 22% have experienced job-related burnout. Business owner burnout is particularly common, especially in the early stages of a startup. Small business owners might feel like they need to work long hours to ensure their business gets off to a great start. However, this level of overworking can contribute to burnout and have the opposite effect.

What are the 5 stages of burnout at work?

While burnout can be caused by several factors, and each person’s experience is different, there are generally five stages a person will go through before they experience burnout. 

Honeymoon Phase

The first stage of burnout is often experienced when a person starts a new job. With high levels of enthusiasm and commitment, driven employees will use their energy, ambition and desire to succeed to push through the demands and challenges of a new role. 

Many people are also keen to impress at this stage, which means they will go above and beyond to show their capabilities. However, this can eventually lead to stress as a person undertakes more taxing tasks. 

The employee and their manager need to implement positive coping mechanisms, like ensuring they feel part of a team, especially when working from home. By finding methods for coping with stress, they could remain in the honeymoon phase without progressing onto burnout. 

The Onset of Stress

After the honeymoon phase, people may start to experience the onset of stress. This is also known as the balancing act, where people feel like they’re juggling several tasks. 

Stress is prevalent in any job and industry, but if you don’t learn to manage stress early on, it can lead to burnout and severely impact your professional and personal life. Some industries experience more stress than others, including government, telecoms, media and marketing. However, this doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. 

Once the excitement of a new job has started to disappear, people may begin to notice aspects of their job they dislike. This might manifest itself as days that feel more stressful or decreased levels of optimism. 

There are several signs associated with the onset of stress, including fatigue, work inefficiency, job dissatisfaction or avoidance of certain tasks. Occasionally, a person might also experience sleep disturbances or neglect of personal needs. Team leaders should look out for early signs of stress so they can provide additional support.

Chronic Stress

The chronic stress stage of burnout closely follows the onset of stress, with many of the same symptoms appearing or continuing. However, they are usually more intense and can accompany more physical symptoms. 

Chronic exhaustion is a tell-tale sign, as well as stress-induced physical illness, anger and depression. There is usually a marked change in a person’s mental health, with a lack of motivation and stress taking centre stage.

Burnout (Crisis Stage)

Every person has a breaking point, and this is especially true when it comes to stress and burnout. Once a person has been through the chronic stress stage, it’s only a matter of time before they enter the crisis stage. 

The signs of burnout are much more physical than the symptoms of the other stages. People experiencing burnout will often feel empty, separated from their life and as though they have lost control. It’s difficult for them to continue with any form of normality, so it’s crucial to seek intervention. 

Habitual Stress (Enmeshment)

When someone has experienced burnout and has not sought professional help, they might move into the habitual stress stage. This is when a person has taken on so many burnout symptoms that they have become embedded in their life. 

People with habitual burnout may not fully realise they have it and will usually be at greater risk of developing chronic long term illnesses. Employers and managers need to recognise when a person is experiencing professional burnout. This can be particularly difficult if remote work is a large part of your organisation’s culture, so ensure you schedule plenty of video calls and informal catch-ups with your team to look for signs.

How to avoid work from home burnout

With an increase of remote workers and home offices, the lines of the workplace feel more blurred. More people are working long hours because they don’t have a commute, and some are even working weekends because they find it difficult to switch off. A study by TOG recently found that 51% of respondents had been working outside of their typical working hours since lockdown and working from home.  

It’s more important than ever to learn coping mechanisms that can help to avoid burnout. Some things you can do to avoid work from home burnout include:

·  Create a dedicated working space and ensure you only use this area for work

·  Don’t travel around the house with your laptop, as this can make traditionally relaxing spaces feel like working areas

·  Take regular breaks

·  Structure your day like you would in the office – leave your desk for screen breaks, have lunch away from your desk and finish on time

·  Remember to take your annual leave

·  Maintain face-to-face contact by popping into the office if you can, meeting colleagues socially, or using a flexible office space

·  Connect with your colleagues via video calls – a Lifesize study found that 89% of users said video conferencing with their teams helped them feel more connected

·  Ensure you get enough sleep by minimising screen time and social media. You could also do something relaxing before bed like meditation, crafting or reading

·  Get fresh air and break up the day by going for a walk at lunchtime

·  Ask for help when you need it 

·  Look out for the symptoms of burnout and put coping mechanisms in place

Burnout could affect anyone at any time, no matter what your role is. Therefore, it’s important to do everything you can to ensure no one in your organisation feels exhausted with work. Establishing a remote work culture is a good place to start as it ensures your home-workers feel as much a part of the team as they did in the office.

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The Perfect Sound for a Good Night’s Sleep

Restful sleep is essential for both physical and mental health, yet it is usually one of the first things to be sacrificed. Year-on-year research shows Britons experience trouble sleeping, with the latest stats showing that 36% of the adults in the UK struggle to fall asleep at least once a week.

A new online tool, Sound of Wellness,  aims to cure everyday issues through the power of coloured noise. White noise has been a front-and-centre favourite, but recently experts have been speaking out about the benefits of different colour frequency noises, such as pink, brown and green noise, in addition to white.

The tool was created by Currys along withpsychologist, neuroscientist andsleep expert, Dr Lindsay Browning and professor of Psychology at the Goldsmith University of London, Joydeep Bhattacharya to discover the benefits of particular sounds for different issues. 

Listen to Pink or Green noise to help you drift off

White noise, the most well-known sound colour that includes TV or radio static, or the “noise” that a fan makes may make you focus better, but this is not the pleasant soundtrack that will get your mind to wind down to slumber.

Sounds that can help with the quality of sleep are described as pink noise and green noise.

Pink noise sounds similar to nature’s rustling leaves, steady rain, wind or our own heartbeat. This is noise with a logarithmic scale, which means its low frequencies are louder and higher ones quieter. Pink noise can help you evoke a deeper, less fragmented sleep that helps focus and concentration.

Listening to these kinds of noise before sleep is especially beneficial for people living in big cities, whose background is filled with shouts from the neverending street nightlife, says Dr Browning.

“It has been suggested that listening to background noise, such as pink noise, during the night can be helpful for people with insomnia. This is because, if your sleep is disturbed by external noises waking you up, such as from a barking dog or police sirens, then playing background noise can help to mask those noise interruptions. Pink noise is a background sound which is more pleasant to listen to than white noise because it contains quieter high-frequency sounds which some people can find shrill.”, explains Browning.

Green noise is similar to pink noise but sounds more natural and is more pleasant to listen to, it sounds like rumbling rivers, trickling waterfalls and waves crashing on the beach. It is a matter of preference, and the best thing is to try the sounds.

6 tips to help you sleep better!

Listening to pink and green noise before sleep is one way to improve quality, but it is not the only thing that will assure better sleep quality.

Dr. Browning suggests following these several sleeping tips.

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule

    Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day can reinforce your circadian rhythm (body clock). By sticking to a routine, your body will already be ready for shuteye at a certain time and it will be easier to nod off.
  2. More sunlight, better sleep

Your body clock works much better if exposed to sunlight as it tunes up to day/ night. A simple walk outside during the daytime can do the trick.

  1. Bed is only for sleeping
    Breakfast in bed may be tempting, as well as opening a bag of crisps and binge-watching a favourite TV show. However, a bed should only be for sex and sleeping. Using your bed for anything else will cause your brain to associate the space with other activities, making it harder to drop off when bedtime comes around.
  2. Limiting screen time
    Blue light is on the same wavelength as daylight, which can trick your body into not producing melatonin, the natural hormone that controls your sleep cycle. Limiting screen time to two hours before bed can improve sleep quality.
  3. Creating a calm space

A bedroom should be an oasis of peace, as much as possible, so creating an ambient that’s free of external noise and light may be another factor that influences a good night sleep. If not possible, investing in an eye mask and ear plugs is also an option.

  1. Cut down on caffeine

The mean half-life of caffeine in plasma of healthy individuals is about 5 hours. However, caffeine’s elimination half-life may range between 1.5 and 9.5 hours depending on the person. This means caffeinated drinks should be limited as the day progresses and stopped entirely around 5 hours before bedtime to aid sleep.

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How running can help improve mental health- the 4 key benefits

An analysis of Google trends data shows that searches for “what are the symptoms of depression” are up by 350%, and “how to deal with depression” up by 70% over the past 30 days, suggesting that many are starting off 2023 suffering from low mood and depression. A huge contributing factor to this will be seasonal affective disorder, which is a depression experience by many during the darker winter months.

To help, the experts at New Balance share four key ways in which exercise, and running in particular, can help improve your mental health.

  1. Release of happy hormones
    Research by Mayo Clinic which found that exercising for about 30 minutes three to five times a week can help relieve depression symptoms. Exercise in general also helps release the feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, which can negate the symptoms of depression and low mood.
    New Balance marathon runner Jonny Mellor explains: “You always feel good after a run. There’s never a feeling of, ‘I shouldn’t have done that’. Getting out of the door is the hardest step. Then once you’re out, you’re set up to be in a better mood. After running, or any other exercise, endorphins are released in the body, and you feel much better.”
  2. Increases oxygen and Vitamin D exposure
    During the cold and dark winter days it can be difficult to find the motivation to get outside, but in fact running, as a form of exercise, is actual extra beneficial during winter months. Opting for a run outside during the day instead of in the gym exposes you to fresh air, which increases the amount of oxygen in your body, helping white blood cells to function more efficiently and keep the winter bugs at bay. Not only this, but it also increases exposure to sunlight during a time of the year where vitamin D levels are typically not high enough. In fact, studies have shown that we get 90% of our vitamin D from the sun, if not taking any additional supplements, which means we should make a conscious effort to expose ourselves to the sun during the winter months.
    Although there is limited evidence that a Vitamin D deficiency directly contributes to depression, the symptoms of a deficiency are aching bones, sore muscles and joints as well as constipation, all of which can affect a person’s quality of life and therefore mood.
  3. Aids better sleep
    It is typical of those that have depression to be experiencing poor sleep, in fact, studies have shown that insomnia occurs in about 75% of adult patients with depression but according to the Sleep Foundation, depression and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning it is difficult to prove whether it is depression causing poor sleep or poor sleep contributing to depression. Either way, improving the amount and quality of sleep will improve mood and overall health- and one way to do this is to increase exercise levels.
    Moderate exercise, such as running, has been proven to aid a restful night’s sleep by reducing the time it takes for sleep onset, which is the time it takes to fall asleep, this decreases the amount of time people lie awake in bed during the night. There is also the benefit that you are using more energy in the day to exercise, meaning there is less pent-up energy in the evening, essentially you wear yourself out.

Also, if you exercise outside it can help regulate your circadian rhythm. Exposure to sunlight lets our body know when it should be awake, meaning that when the sun sets, our bodies then produce melatonin to induce sleepiness and promote sleep. Increasing the time spent outside is a simple and effective way to trigger the natural chemicals in our brain that promote high-quality sleep.

It is, however, important to bear in mind that the timing of your run will impact the effect it has on sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite desired effect, as exercise releases endorphins, adrenaline and raises body temperature it can make sleeping more difficult. Avoid exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime.

  1. Improved self-esteem
    There are many physical health benefits of running such as improved cardiovascular fitness, decreased blood pressure, and, of course the more obvious one, weight management. Whether your goal is to feel healthier and fitter or your goals is to lose weight, taking up running can help improve how you feel about yourself- your self-esteem, and you don’t need to be running marathons to feel the benefit.
    The NHS physical activity guidelines state that to help reduce the risk of heart disease or a stroke: “Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.” Running is classed as a vigorous activity by the NHS, meaning that just 15-minute run 5 days a week will see adults achieving their recommended activity goals and therefore positively affect other goals which helps boost self-esteem.

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Offering certainty to an uncertain PRS

By Paul Foy, CEO, RentGuarantor

The UK private rental sector is facing growing uncertainty. The number of landlords offering properties had already dropped considerably when the government imposed the Tenant Fees Act in 2019, and now, following the pandemic and amidst the current cost-of-living crisis, we are on the verge of a rental crisis – with the average lettings agent having just 11 properties available to rent in July per member branch, and 127 new prospective tenants on average being added to the books.

With the number of properties available already limited, and the recent government whitepaper, ‘A Fairer Private Rental Sector’, proposing drastic changes that are expected to drive more landlords out of the market, tenants looking to move need to make sure they are in a position to make an offer quickly, or else risk losing out on their dream home.  This includes having enough money to pay the deposit, and in most instances providing a guarantor, which is easier said than done in the current financial crisis.

For landlords, the need for a guarantor is becoming ever greater with so many facing financial insecurity. As rising energy bills and higher costs of living continue to put strain on the British public, 400,000 households are already expected to fall behind on their rent payments, meaning landlords need to find a way of ensuring they can still receive rent payments – so as to cover their own costs and income. The issue, however, is that the crisis is affecting us all, and a friend or family member acting as a guarantor may well find themselves in a position where they are unable to pay the rent themselves.

Evictions aren’t beneficial for either party and, despite how they can sometimes be presented in the media, most landlords care about the wellbeing of those renting their properties. But with rent arrears being a top concern for landlords, and 78% of tenants being worried about how they will pay rent, there is a clear need for additional support to be extended to all within the private rental sector.

Extra security for landlords

The last few years have seen landlords subjected to a great deal of uncertainty around their rental properties. Changing laws, the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis have all come together to spur an increase in due diligence when looking at prospective tenants and the security of the tenancy. This has in turn led to an increased demand for tenants to have a guarantor, rising by 36% over the past 4 years.

As financial pressure mounts for many in the country, that need for a guarantor is only expected to rise, but with the increased living costs hitting the majority of people it can dampen the stability granted by a personal guarantor.

Instead, many landlords are recommending tenants use a company guarantor, offering them a guarantee that is underwritten by an insurance company, and providing an additional level of security to both the landlord and tenant. On top of this a professional guarantor service grants the landlord with the peace of mind that any situation arising from a tenant falling into arrears would be managed on their behalf – including eviction in the rare circumstances where it should come to that.

Additional support for tenants

As well as the benefits afforded to landlords, rent guarantor services also provide a much-needed lifeline for prospective tenants. With the private rental sector currently facing a major housing shortage, having the right provisions in place when making an offer could be the difference between securing or losing that dream home.

The service provided by a rent guarantor company means tenants can quickly provide a guarantor when needed, without having to negotiate any awkward or uncomfortable conversions with friends or family members, and can often have a completed application within minutes – only paying once the contract has been signed.

Additionally, the majority of these services offer the option to pay in instalments, taking away the pressure of paying a lump sum up front – which can be a daunting prospect in today’s financial climate. This can, through some companies, include an upfront deposit payment that can be added to the instalments, further reducing the cost burden tenants face and helping to streamline the moving process.

A necessary service in an uncertain sector

While relatively new to the UK, rent guarantor companies provide an important service, which guarantees landlords will receive their payments. In turn, this takes away the financial pressure and concerns of the tenant by granting them a reliable guarantor that will back them if they’re unable to afford rent. With many of these services underwritten by some of the UK’s largest insurance firms, they can provide an invaluable level of security during these difficult times.

While the future of the PRS is still uncertain, and there are likely to be many more hurdles to overcome in the near future, the services provided by rent guarantor companies can at least provide some respite during the current crisis we are facing – offering the extra support needed by both tenant and landlord.

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